NASSCOM: The Lone Warrior



NASSCOM’s battle against faceless software pirates can be best described as effective. Indian piracy rates have seen a substantial decline in the last nine years. And the credit for it goes to none other than NASSCOM. Not awed by its success, it has stepped up its efforts further. 

Among the various countries that have been affected by software piracy, India today ranks at number 45. But the figure has seen a constant decline over the past few years. Despite the marginal increase in piracy rates in 2001, National Association of Software and Service Companies or NASSCOM’s ambitious target is to further reduce it to the 25 percent by 2005. 

This is part of its plan to make India a country with the lowest piracy rate. The Indian track record is relatively much better as compared to other countries in the Asia Pacific region like China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Pakistan. 

Despite a downward trend, piracy is as much a global issue as it is a problem in India. According to Business Software Alliance (BSA) figures, worldwide piracy stood at nearly 36 percent in 1999. In other words, one of every three software is a pirated copy, translating to a loss of $12.1 billion. 

For India alone the number stood at $214.6 million, making the situation much graver. Here the piracy rate has shot up to 61 percent from its all time low of 59 percent in 1999-2000 according to the BSA’s worldwide piracy survey. BSA attributes this phenomenon to the slowdown that seems to be on everyone’s mind today.

Total government support

To tackle this problem a number of actions have been initiated in various countries at an individual level supported by BSA. In India NASSCOM has been the voice that rings clear above all the noises fighting the piracy war. NASSCOM’s main efforts in this direction were to further strengthen the intellectual property right (IPR) laws and work closely with the government to bring the pirates to task.

The efforts are undoubtedly reaping results. The first most important achievement in this direction was the decision by the Karnataka Government to make Karnataka a ‘zero piracy state’. This is not only a visible example of the government’s support but also a clear expression of its willingness to bring piracy levels within the bureaucratic administration itself to zero. 
NASSCOM is working with the government, a scheme through which all electronic data processing managers in government departments and PSUs will verify and sign a statement certifying that no pirated software is used in their department. To take this further they also have to ensure that no pirated software will be used in the future. 

Government officials becoming signatories to such undertakings will act as a showcase for commitment to anti-piracy. In conjunction NASSCOM is also working with various state governments to create IPR cells in police departments of various state governments.

Expanding reach

Not wanting to be limited within the confines of state capitals and the metros, NASSCOM is also assisting police to raid premises using pirated software under the criminal statutes of the Indian Copyright Act in big and small cities. 

The association has also recognized the need to bulwark their efforts with educational and awareness seminars, which is one of their prime agenda for this year. The month of May 2001 saw software asset management seminars for corporations being conducted in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and
Bangalore. 

Other than the end users, NASSCOM also plans to create awareness of the issues within the judiciary and the police force, for which a seminar will be conducted in the fag end of July 2001. 

Stepping up the corporate drive

For the first time in India, NASSCOM and BSA have launched a nation-wide campaign, which focuses on corporations and their use of software. This campaign comes at a time when almost six out of every ten software packages being used in the country are illegal or unauthorized. 

As per NASSCOM estimates, about 41 percent of corporate in the country use some amount of pirated software. There are also instances where employees at times install illegal software on to their machines without the knowledge of
the MIS manager. It is this corporate piracy that was the focus of NASSCOM’s latest campaign. 

Running from June to July 2001, NASSCOM and BSA called corporations to review the use of software in their organizations to ensure that they are using fully legal software. The past year had seen an increasing number of companies facing legal consequences for pirated software usage. 

Among those that received media attention were the out-of-court settlements with International Print-O-Pack and NextLinx India, the Bangalore based subsidiary of NextLinx Corp, USA. The settlement with NextLinx includes $30,000 in damages, complete legalization of software and submission to an unannounced software audit for the next year. 

Bottomline

With the awareness of software piracy growing each year, NASSCOM-BSA has announced their toll-free Anti-Piracy Software Hotline (1600 334455). The public is encouraged to report any incidence of software piracy, which in turn helps NASSCOM initiate legal action against those who are infringing the rights of NASSCOM members, which today number 870. 

A reward of up to Rs 50,000 is also given to callers whose information leads to successful legal action. On an average NASSCOM receives 30 calls per day through its toll free number. This initiative has significantly strengthened its fight against software abuse and indicates that the Indian community has at last started recognizing the threat piracy poses to its economy.

Mohit Chabbra in New Delhi

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